WriteTip: Planning for Writing – Part 1

One thing I’ve learned from experience is that it’s vital that you plan before you begin writing a long piece of fiction. There’s nothing worse than coming to a point in a story and realising you have no idea where to go next!

Even discovery writers or “pantsers” usually do some kind of planning.

The simplest way to begin planning is to explore the 5 Ws:


This may seem simplistic but it is vital that you explore these avenues first.

Who is in the story?

You are writing a controlled assessment, not a novel. Keep things easy to manage by having as few characters as possible. If a character doesn’t add to your narrative then you don’t need it.

What is it about? What is the conflict?

Your controlled assessment will be about the topic that has been set, such as “beginnings and/or endings.” Usually the topic will give you a lot of freedom to invent but you must ensure your end product matches the brief.

More importantly, your story must have some kind of conflict. This doesn’t mean there has to be a fight! However, the main character in your story must face some kind of difficulty.

  • Internal Conflict – The character has a conflict within him or herself (EG: a struggle with a decision, worry about something he or she has to do).
  • Interpersonal Conflict – The character has a conflict with another person (EG: a child disagreeing with a parent’s instructions).
  • External Conflict – The character has a conflict with something within nature or society (EG: struggling to survive after an earthquake).

Where is it set?

This is a simple yet important point. You must be aware of where your narrative occurs as this will affect your choice of descriptive detail.

When is it set?

Avoid unusual settings such as changes in time period. It will be a lot more difficult to write a believable story set in Medieval times than in the modern world. Keep it simple!

Do think about what time of year your narrative is set in. This will help you to describe the weather or make references to holidays. A story set at Christmastime will have very different descriptive detail than one set at the height of summer.

Why does the conflict occur?

Conflict is vital to a successful narrative. However, what is also vital is the reason for the conflict. You must consider why the issue has occurred as this will impact on your plot and characters. The idea of a child disagreeing with a parent’s instructions can be explored in different ways. Is it because the child is being unreasonable? Or, could it be because the parent is irrationally afraid of something happening to the child? These two reasons for conflict would create very different stories.


Next time, we’ll look at planning using plot diagrams, as well as using narrative hooks!


Debut novel out NOW!

Rise of the Darkwitch – “a diverse world which is unlike much which I have read before.”

“A highly imaginative fantasy world with a tightly plotted and structured story which zips along to a satisfying conclusion and leaves you eager for the next instalment in the series.



WriteTip: Comma Use and Semi-Colons

A new feature for this week! In my day job, I’m an English teacher, and I’d like to share some of the finer details of the English language as I know it. I’m not going to laud myself as the be-all-end-all of writing, but I do know a thing or two, and I’ve made a career out of explaining it. I hope you find this in some way useful!

The Comma

One of the most confusing elements of English punctuation, the comma causes the biggest problem for many writers. However, things aren’t as difficult as they seem with our little curved friend. It all comes down to understanding clauses in sentences.


A clause is a part of a sentence. That previous sentence was a one clause sentence, whereas this one is a two clause sentence. How do you tell clauses apart from each other? Usually, you’re looking for the main clause (the part that makes sense solo – EG: “That sentence was a one clause sentence,” which makes sense as a standalone sentence) and the subordinate clause (the part that needs the other clause to qualify it – EG: “whereas this one is a two clause sentence,” as that doesn’t make sense as a standalone).

Where to Place a Comma

Commas are often placed to separate these clauses, helping to make complex sentences. You’ll notice I’ve used a lot of complex sentences in this post. That’s deliberate. Look at where my commas are. Read each clause on either side. You’ll easily see which ones are main clauses (make sense alone) and which ones are subordinate clauses (don’t make sense alone).

Of course, commas are also used in lists. That’s generally not an issue, as we learn this at a young age. Unfortunately, the adage of “use a comma when you need to take a breath” is also taught at a young age. This causes problems, especially the dreaded comma splice…

Comma Splicing

This is when you use a comma when you should use a full stop, or sometimes a connective. This is a very common error!

INCORRECT: The dog is wet, she was stuck out in the rain.

These clauses both make sense as solo sentences, therefore they should not be separated by a comma. They should be separated with a full stop, or in this case, connective.

CORRECT: The dog is wet. She was stuck out in the rain.


CORRECT: The dog is wet because she was stuck out in the rain.


The reason we can use a semi-colon in this case is that the two clauses are both short and about the same topic:

CORRECT: The dog is wet; she was stuck out in the rain.

Thus, instead of a connective, we can use a semi-colon in its place.